I happen to be one of those vegetarians who has never developed even an inkling of a taste for meat. It was thus one of the most bizarre culinary experiences I could have imagined to bite into a juicy, steaming dumpling of flesh — albeit fake flesh — during a recent dining experiment.
I was out for Taiwanese. With roots in Buddhism, Taiwanese food can be divided neatly, if you like, into two categories: vegetarian and non-vegetarian. Unlike Japanese shojin ryōri (vegetarian Buddhist cuisine reserved for special occasions), plant-based fare in Taiwan has trickled comfortably into mainstream culture. As such, the creative use of soy products is astounding, and the variety of dishes truly impressive.
I stumbled upon Roran (2-39-8 Nishi-Ikebukuro, Toshima-ku, Tokyo; 03-3984-4981), a casual Chinese/Taiwanese restaurant, while searching online for a vegetarian place near Ikebukuro one night.